Merriam Historic Plaza Walking Path
Although Merriam is one of the oldest communities in the area, it was unincorporated for much of its history. When the county was created, it was divided into several smaller segments called townships. Merriam is placed on the boundary of Shawnee and Mission townships, with Antioch Road as the dividing line. For many years the township form of government served efficiently in Northeast Johnson County. For each township, three elected officials had the responsibility for the building and upkeep of roads and bridges, collection of taxes, and administration of relief to the poor.
As population increased, the need for a different form of government was widely felt. The heavily populated areas began to incorporate until Northeast Johnson County had fourteen separate cities.
In 1950 Merriam petitioned the governor to become a third class incorporated city. The petition was approved by the Board of Johnson County Commissioners on October 23, 1950. The first city council meeting was held at Pflumm Brothers Plumbing Shop on November 24, 1950. Carl R. Engel, Sr. was administered the oath of office as Merriam's first mayor. At that meeting, the city council voted to purchase police badges for council members, designating themselves as law enforcement officials for the city. The elected officials were paid $1.00 per year for their service.
City services during the early 1950's included police protection, maintenance of city streets, supervision of public health, operation of a modern swimming pool, and fire protection. Fire protection was provided by a loyal group of volunteers. An organization comprised of local businessmen and volunteer firefighters was formed in 1947 and was named the Merriam Better Business Association. The name was later changed to the Merriam Community Association. The Community Association raised funds to purchase land and build the first fire station, which was designated Shawnee Township Fire Department #1. This volunteer fire department provided fire protection for approximately eight square miles. The first fire truck was a 1942 army surplus four wheel drive pumper.
Merriam's population in 1950 was 1640 residents. Merriam achieved second class city status January 13, 1957 when its population grew to 4327 citizens.
About the Images
Downtown Merriam -
Pictured is downtown Merriam, circa 1940-1950
Mayor Carl Engel -
Carl R. Engel Sr. was elected as Merriam's first mayor in 1950. Mayor Engel served from October 1950 to April 1955.
Fire Truck -
1951 Ford Pumper truck and volunteer firefighters. The pump had a 500-gallon per minute capacity.
Did you know?
When the fire alarm rang, the volunteers would drop whatever they were doing and respond to the emergency. Joe Weaver, owner of Weaver's Grocery Store, was often waiting on customers when the alarm sounded.